Thursday, February 13, 2014

Penny ready to beat Rowley; says PNM is no cult

Pennelope "Penny" Beckles-Robinson made it official Wednesday and declared that she is challenging Keith Rowley for the leadership of the People's National Movement (PNM). It was the worst kept secret since she had already advised Rowley that she would be in the race.

Speaking with reporters at a media conference at Balisier House, she said she knows that he is the better candidate for the job. She said, "Whether we accept it or not there are people who still believe that the PNM operates much like a cult. Certainly in those areas I think I can make a difference.”

She also said he is not worried that a challenge to the sitting leader might cause significant damage to the party. She said what is happening in the PNM today is a part of the organisation's democracy. "You just don’t challenge because you feel like challenging. You challenge because you think you can bring something different to the party... I am convinced there is tremendous support and that I have a very good chance of winning the leadership,” she said.

She said she accepted Rowley in 2010. "We had just lost the general elections and Dr Rowley had just taken over the leadership. I was of the view that he should be given the opportunity to lead.”

If she beats Rowley and becomes the leader of the PNM, Beckles-Robinson would have to lead from outside of Parliament since she is not an elected member. The Constitution requires the leader of the opposition to be elected by the people.

There is a way she can get into the House of Representatives. She can get one member of the PNM parliamentary caucus to resign as an MP and force an election which she will likely win. It just has to happen before June 18, 2014, which is the fourth anniversary of the current parliament.

That issue was not raised by reporters and she didn't talk about it but she did say she is not worried about leading from outside. There is precedent for it, she said, in countries like Barbados and India.

Beckles-Robinson also stated that party members should not judge her on her gender, noting that gender did not determine the result for Kamla Persad-Bissessar when she offered herself for the leadership of the United National Congress.

She also knocked down the idea that she is too polite for the rough and tumble of national politics, stating that no one should mistake her quietness for a weakness. "I have the skills that are required to deal with government and opposition."

She said she knows how to be tough when it is time for that. She denied that she ever considered joining any other party, shrugging it off as rumours circulated by people who would like to tarnish her political image and hurt her chances of winning.

"I am a member of the PNM. I have had my own challenges in the PNM. I was moved out of the Senate in 1998. I am out again in 2014. I was rejected for Arima in the 2010 elections, and I never once questioned those as reasons for leaving the PNM,” she said.

She also suggested that outsiders who cannot vote in the election should stay out of PNM business, commenting specifically on an apparent endorsement from Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. "He is not a member of the PNM. He cannot vote for me, and I wish he could stay out of PNM business," she said.

She said she would have a slate of candidates but did not name those who will be on it.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai